Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Best-Selling Author Helen Hanson. She writes Mystery & Thrillers and Suspense novels.
WriteMe [at] HelenHanson [dot] com
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Bestselling Kindle author Helen Hanson writes thrillers about desperate people with a high-tech bent. Hackers. The CIA. Industry titans. Spammers. Guys on sailboats. Mobsters. Their personal maelstroms pit them against unrelenting forces willing to kill. Throughout the journey, they try to find some truth, a little humor, and their humanity -- from either end of the trigger.
While Helen writes about the power-hungry, she genuinely mistrusts anyone who wants to rule the world.
Helen directed operations for high-tech manufacturers of semiconductors, video games, software, and computers. Her reluctant education behind the Redwood Curtain culminated in a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrated studies in Computer Science. She also learned to play a mean game of hacky sack.
She is a licensed private pilot with a ticket for single-engine aircraft. Helen and her husband spent their first anniversary with their flight instructor studying for the FAA practical. If you were a passenger on a 737 trying to land at SJC, she sends her most sincere apologies. Really.
Born in fly-over country, Helen has lived on both coasts, near both borders, and at several locations in between. She lettered in tennis, worked as a machinist, and saw the Clash at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium sometime in the eighties. She currently lives amid the bricks of Texas with her husband, son, a dog that composes music with squeaky toys, and another dog that's too lazy to bother.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Let’s start with what’s next. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
I do! OCEAN OF FEAR will launch in June. Here’s the promo for it:
Meet Baxter Cruise: spammer for hire. His cozy world of lattes and free wi-fi is about to explode.
Robotics engineer Baxter Cruise earns his tuition by spewing spam into everybody’s inbox. His professor taught him how to trade on his talent after Baxter’s parents died. The hippie professor passes for family until the day he disappears. It’s the same day Baxter discovers the body of another robotics professor on campus, and her death looks like a professional hit. The two professors collaborated on many projects, but one of them got her killed.
In Santa Cruz, California, beautiful FBI agent Claudia Seagal tracks the professor’s brutal assassin–a member of the Malvidas drug cartel. She knows Baxter isn’t the killer, but he is a linchpin in the death. So why won’t he tell her the truth?
Tired of his obsession with money and work, Baxter’s girlfriend dumps him. With his secretive lifestyle, he hasn’t cultivated any friends, and Baxter is all alone except for his house robot, Konos. When a student asks Baxter to help with a class assignment, Baxter figures it’ll kick start him out of his funk.
But the guy is no student and uses his knowledge of the spam business to coerce Baxter to program delivery vehicles for the cartel’s narcotics. Working for drug lords rattles the needle on Baxter’s errant moral compass, but they plan to pay him, and it’s better than a bullet in the head.
Every angle of Claudia’s investigation returns her to Baxter. He’s hiding something. But he’s in too deep to cooperate with the law. Still haunted by a boyfriend’s violent death, she fears for Baxter’s life, but he refuses to let her help.
Baxter just wants to finish the job and go home. He ignores the cartel’s depravity until he watches an innocent woman die. When he wakes up on a plane, it’s too late for remorse.
Backed by dangerous allies, the cartel requires Baxter’s talent until the bots are complete. Then, he and thousands of others face certain death unless Baxter can find a way to escape.
You have a great following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
3 LIES hit the Kindle Top 100 because of my online presence. But, I’m more comfortable with live humans than I am on social media. In real life I get to gauge expressions, body language, even the timbre of a voice. But I’ve met some fabulous people through the vines. For any writer, people don’t know you exist until they see your face or read your words, and social media gives us access to readers in every time zone.
One of my failings as a human is that I find myself amusing. That may be the only attribute I can convey within 140 characters. And it is a facet to my writing. As in life, I seek humor in the midst of pathos. One hundred and forty characters worth of silliness might propel a reader to pick up a more substantial work of mine. My novels are over 90,000 words. That’s far too long to stay serious the whole time even in the middle of a tragedy.
Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I run my dogs a couple of times a week. Feed the birds. They are welcome to watch. I’ll even sign a book.
Seriously, I’m always available for book clubs that choose to read one of my novels. Those are a blast because there’s a fun exchange that occurs during the discussion.
And, I have a couple of radio interviews coming up. May 10 and June 13. The audio files will be posted on my website. People occasionally mistake my voice for a man’s because it’s rather low. But, I’ve always been a girl.
You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?
Ha ha ha. The visual arts are a mystery to me. I can make something look nice, but I can’t make it special. Tekeme Studios (Tekeme.com) created the art for 3 LIES, DARK POOL, my website, and is working on my cover for Ocean of Fear right now. I gave my artist, George Weis, a list of elements within the book and told him the emotion I want the cover to express. Then George makes magic.
I wanted to have reader involvement on the cover, but the timing didn’t work for this release. But I’m reworking my FOR READERS section on my website to get more interaction. I really do love to hear from readers, and I always write back.
What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
I have two local groups that I cherish. We have some great talent in the Dallas area, I’ve been fortunate to cultivate some deep ties with people I admire. These are my critique partners, comprised of multi-published authors and professional editors.
For marketing, I seek my online team, BestSellingReads.com. It’s a fairly new group, but filled with bestselling indies who are talented, ambitious, and generous in sharing marketing ideas and collaboration. I’m not a marketer. But it’s a necessity, so I’m an eager student. I bring my geek to the group.
Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?
I’m a list freak. If it isn’t on the list, it won’t happen. If it is, look out. I remember my son learning this as a small child in the grocery store. He asked for a pen so he could mark an X on my list. He didn’t yet know how to write chocolate. Yes, I bought some.
Mornings, I catch up on must-do items in my in-box or promises made. I homeschool, so I grade my son’s work or give him any direction needed. Afternoons and evenings are when I do my best writing. My husband was exceptionally supportive even before I’d sold a single book.
And I have to exercise. Run, bike, pump aluminum. I get really cranky when I can’t. Too much time stuck in a chair, and I get cabin fever.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
Promotions are a great way to get readers to notice. I reserve my straight giveaways for readers through my newsletter. So come to my website and sign up ? I send about one a month when I have something to offer. I want to reward my loyal readers who have any investment in my work and success. For instance, I plan to give away copies of OCEAN OF FEAR, as well as items embroidered with the 3 LIES logo–shirts, aprons, tote bags. I’ll be doing that with the other book logos in the coming months.
I’ve given away limited copies of both my ebook and my paperbacks. I have one book in Kindle Select but won’t be renewing. I’ve run some 99¢ promotions because I think that’s a minimal amount to pay for an ebook. I’ve heard it called the Latte-standard. A good latte lasts only a while yet we’re willing to part with a few bits of silver for it. So it should be with ebooks. My library routinely gets rid of books for whatever you want to donate, and I always give them $2 each for them. If writers don’t earn some kibble, they can’t keep writing.
You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?
Thanks ? That’s kind of you to say. Readers are my focus. They’re the only reason my work hit the Top 100 on Kindle. I love hearing from people who’ve read my work. It’s a total kick. I will write you back if you send something my way.
When I was writing my first novel, 3 LIES, I had no readers, but I wanted to blog. So I wrote whatever I felt like. When I published 3 LIES, being a geek, I decided to do my own ebook formatting. Consequently, I learned and blogged about the process. These were also intended to be my notes to format my next book. You forget this stuff unless you do it routinely. Consequently, a lot of writers found my site. It’s been an interesting experience conversing with them, and they’re writing some amazing stuff, so I kept the formatting series available for other writers.
Life is a juggle no matter how you spend it. I walk around with my perpetually half-done list feeling inadequate ?
Being a self-publisher myself, I have to ask this question. How does doing everything yourself work out? Do you outsource much of the process or do you do it all yourself?
I’m somewhere on the control freak spectrum. My mother said my first words were: I can do it myself. Be careful what you wish for, eh?
I outsource what I must and what I can. Art? Check. Final edit? Check. Formatting? I got that one.
Does your technical background play a big part in you writings? Are any of your characters based on any of your associations like a receptionist you knew? Things like that.
3 LIES hit #1 in technothrillers, so absolutely, I draw on my inner geek for story lines. My protagonists are spammers, hackers, executives of satellite technology companies. My personal world is technical, so it’s inherently part of the worlds I create.
However, my ideal vacation would be one where I could untether from everything electronic for at least a week. That notion was a subplot of 3 LIES.
I modeled a minor character on someone I knew. Not physically but the mannerisms. Some people are too rich to ignore.
Author's Book List
Maggie Fender’s law degree remains a daydream as she supports her ex-felon half-brother and their incoherent father. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Dad’s rarely lucid, but when he’s accused of murder, only the gorgeous Russian neighbor flickers Maggie’s hope. In the news, disgraced hedge fund manager Patty O’Mara awaits trial for bilking investors out of forty billion dollars. The legendary dark pool wizard offered phenomenal profits. But the SEC discovered O’Mara never made a single legitimate investment. His fund was a total scam. Maggie’s Dad barely functions, but her hacker brother swears Dad is sending them vital messages about O’Mara’s pot of gold. A private investigator hunts for the money and aims to find it before a notorious Russian mobster. When their efforts focus on Maggie’s father, her remaining hope turns to rampant fear. She’s the only adult left in her family, and her weary camel won’t carry a single extra straw. Her teenage brother’s hacking skills landed his ass in prison, but he swears he was framed. No fans of the Fender family, the local police assume Dad ran away when he goes missing. Maggie will never find her father without help. She’s got to trust someone. But who can Maggie trust when everyone’s betrayed her?
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At CIA headquarters, a young officer discovers that terrorists may have commandeered their computer systems to launch an unauthorized mission. Elsewhere, conspirators abduct nine people to manipulate the rules of their game. Two disparate ambitions — Clint Masters becomes the reluctant link in the chain of danger.
Ever since Clint’s almost ex-wife dumped him, he bobs along the Massachusetts coast in a sailboat with his black lab for company. He avoids all forms of technology, a counterintuitive effort for the burned-out founder of CatSat Laboratories. Tired of clutching the brass ring, he needed to untether, step off the corporate treadmill, and smell a flower. Fortunately, he met one, a beautiful, unspoiled woman who doesn’t treat him like a commodity. His relationship with Beth offers more promise than his marriage ever did, even if she is on dialysis for her recovering kidneys, until she disappears.
In spite of the evidence, Beth's family refuses to admit she’s in danger. Without routine dialysis, she won’t survive. As Clint realizes that he loves Beth, damn-near ex-wife Paige sashays back into his life with disturbing news.
While the CIA young gun tracks his quarry, Clint enlists the help of two men to find Beth, a blithe Brit named Merlin, and Todd, his playboy partner-in-tech. But Clint must find Beth before her kidneys fail. And before someone unloads a bullet in his head.
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Author Recommended by:
Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series. Also he is a prolific twitter host. See Claude's Author's Spotlight post.